Better late than never

Linda Convissor of UNC passes on this info about the University's new memorial to the oppressed workers that built it.

Dedication of Unsung Founders Memorial
Saturday, November 5, 10:00 a.m.

If you have been on McCorkle Place recently, perhaps to vote, you may have noticed the new sculpture installed near Alumni Hall and the Morehead Planetarium. The sculpture “honors the university's unsung founders - the people of color bond and free who helped build the Carolina that we cherish today.”

The sculpture, which is a gift of the class of 2002, was installed in late spring and will be dedicated this Saturday, November 5. The community is invited and I hope you will come to campus for this dedication and let others know about it.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the site of the memorial on McCorkle Place in front of the Alumni Building. Chancellor Moeser and Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will speak as well as 2002 senior class officers Ben Singer, president, and Byron Wilson, vice president. The student a cappella ensemble Harmonyx will sing, and refreshments will be served. Person Hall will serve as a rain site.

You can see photographs of the memorial at and



It is a couple of hundred years late, but it's also a rather nice memorial, I think. Now if we could only get students to stop _eating_ on it, that would be fantastic ...

Chris, I'd suggest that the design of the memorial invites people to stop, sit, write, eat, etc. Is there an irony in the "unsung founders" supporting a platform that we still use? Or is that the whole point?

For anyone who hasn't seen it up close: it's a stunningly beautiful piece, and worth the short walk from Franklin Street.

I agree that the design encourages use. I stopped by to see it and took some pictures today. It's actually 300 bronze figures supporting a rock table. Quite impressive. It's not as big as I thought it would be when I looked at the pictures though. A picture with people sitting at it gives a better perspective.

Joan, I don't have an inherent problem with people eating (or studying, or whatever) on the memorial. I just know that when I see people there, they usually leave it a complete mess when they're done -- rather disrespectful, I think, though perhaps to be expected.

I do love it, though. It's the best piece of public art we've put on campus since I've been in school -- that's for damn sure.

Not enough has been said about this memorial and its dedication Saturday . Thanks for the post.

Here's memorial to look upon and ponder the past of UNC, our town and the nation. I plan to be in beautiful McCorkle Place Saturday with my children. The memorial's position a little south of Silent Sam makes it even more compelling from my standpoint. Silent Sam stands behind, and just south of the stone wall built by Booth family of stone masons, who were both bonded and finally free. The Booth family were among those craftmen who built of the University and the town.

My fellow church goers and I recently took part in a three week long forum in the University United Methodist Church which is almost in the shadow of Silent Sam. It was clear to me that we had much soul searching yet to do to grapple with race, and the mark racism and slavery has left on us. Tim Tyson and Mayor Foy spoke, as did others about the past and future. The focus was to understand where our church and denomination had been on racial issues and how we could move forward. Chapel Hill could use more discussions like this on a regular basis.

My answer to what I can do is to teach my children about the past. I hope we never forget the struggle that minorities, and especially african-american people, have had to endure in order to share in wealth of our University, our town and our nation.

Hope to see many of my fellow citizens in McCorkle Place on Saturday at 10 am.

My answer to what I can do is to teach my children about the past. I hope we never forget the struggle that minorities, and especially african-american people, have had to endure in order to share in wealth of our University, our town and our nation.

No offense Steve but I don't think the problems are in the past. The struggles continue. For evidence see the minority student achievement gap, the dwindling number of African-Americans living here, the small number of minority owned businesses, etc.

I neglected to mention the related exhibit at Wilson Library:

NEW EXHIBIT: Slavery and the Making of the University: Celebrating Our Unsung Heroes, Bond and Free, 12 October 2005-28 February 2006, Manuscripts Department, 4th Floor, The Wilson Library

Yesterday's NY Times had an AP article on the exhibit and UNC's ongoing study of the role of slavery in its history.


No offense Terri but you missed my point entirely. You teach the past to know how you got to today. My children need to understand slavery, Jim Crow and issues of race.

In all fairness you must be very tired tonight if you thought my comments indicated I thought we have moved beyond the curse of racism in our time.


Thanks for mentioning the exhibit in Wilson Library. Another step by the University in remembering the its past.
Worth seeing and promoting by UNC more than homecoming and a new building.

Unfortunately my feeling is the UNC does not give enough acknowledgement to the unpleasant history that is also a part of its past. I do not favor taking down Silent Sam and erasing other memories of our checkored past but the University must more forcefully engage in the public in debate on a ongoing basis on issues of race, diversity and equality. I know there is a balance that needs to be struck.
But the lack of publicity about the unsung founders memorial is an example of underplaying an important event in the history of the University.

Just got home from the dedication. It was a moving ceremony with excellent speechs that caught the moment. Decendants of the unsung founders were in the audience and recognized by Chancellor Moeser. Dean Grey-Little spoke with sharpness and irony from the records of the University about the "unsung" and unknown founders who built and served UNC. The beauty of the fall day and the voices of Harmonyx was almost too perfect.

Chancellor Moeser remarks were powerful and candid. He spoke of the toll slavery and racism had exacted on african american people. I went with interest particularly in his comments and the tenor his words. I left with a great deal more assurance that University is finally acknowledging
part of a infamous past. I hope to get a text of his speech and Dean Grey-Little.

As to the future there was little said. I did not expect that there would be as this was a memorial dedication, a time to reflect on the past. But among those there I hope there was an underlying determination to continue the struggle against the curse of slavery and racism in what ever way each of can, great or small.

The only negative was that the audience was small and mostly middle aged. Swarms of UNC football fans drifted by on the way to the football game. Many seemed puzzled by the ceremony. The event deserved more publicity, attention and atendance.

It was, frankly, the most moving ceremony I've been to in a long time, and many of the descendants of those honored were in attendance: Mrs. Clark, Mr. Battle, Mrs. Council, and others. Dean Grey-Little's address was particularly poignant (I understand that the text of the remarks will be posted on the Web).

It's also worth noting that mention was made of the fact that the design of the memorial is one intended to foster interaction, and play an active role in the lively activity of McCorkle Place: Namely, that if one is given cause for reflection while having lunch on the memorial, more to the good.

Remarkable, and has been said, overdue.


Funny,---or maybe not so---that everybody's so busy in paroxysms of self-promotion that many forget why we do this s**t. The fact that comments about the events at Mc Corckle Place today have fallen off the radar screen faster than the Titanic in a nuclear test site, speaks volumes.


Alex, you're not a morning person are you?

Amen, Alex. Masybe some others ought to wake up with an edge.

Yup. Cranky, cranky.

I have to admit that I had a strange feeling in the back of my mind when I saw this sculpture. I know it was trying to honor people, but it made them so small and faceless. Also, I wondered why the artist wasn't African-American or from NC. Turns out I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Here's a letter to the editor in today's Chapel Hill News:

My goodness! UNC has done it again. Another slam against black folk erected on campus. With the help of a Korean artist, advising majority-culture art notables, a couple of students of color and $106,000, a pathetic, demeaning structure midgetizes the enormous contributions of black workers.

Perhaps the black Lilliputians cloaked with an unblemished, shiny surface truly reflects the state of affairs for workers at UNC. Add the soda cans, lunch wrapping, paper cups and goodness-knows-what-else -- does this honor anyone?

The Unsung Founders Memorial suspiciously resembles Maya Lin's sculpture dedicated in 1989 at the Civil Rights Memorial center in Montgomery, Ala. Was there no expectation of originality from the artist when this contract was made?

When the selection of the artist was announced, I shared my concern with the class president, Ben Singer, who shrugged off the matter with "the students understood the artist's proposal," which I suppose meant that realism is in. No metaphors, thank you!

A question still arises -- North Carolina has the 11th largest population in the country. Does this suggest that there is an insufficient number of creative artists in North Carolina to provide public art? This assessment brings me to say that it is logical that the Chapel Hill Public Art Commission needs to participate in the process. The university is not an island.

Belatedly, some honor is being paid on the mall to UNC black workers. Are we to be grateful no matter what poor manifestation has appeared?

-- Louise Davis Stone, Chapel Hill

I think Ruby's right to point out that the size and facelessness of the characters is troubling.

Seen a different way, though, the African American characters in the work are extraordinarily effective. What I like most about the piece is the ambiguity of whether the black workers are holding the structure up, or whether it is crushing them, or both. I think it's both. If the figures had been large, and if they'd had fully articulated faces, I wonder whether the piece would have communicated this supporting/crushing image as effectively.

Sounds like good art to me---inspires strong reactions and promotes dialogue about its intent.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
- Aristotle

Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.
- Roy Adzak

When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it.
- Jacob Lawrence

I think folks have raised some interesting points about the monument. I've blogged about it here.

Not exactly on topic, but got an informational email from UNC yesterday at 11:30am, and it seemed to fit very well under the heading "better late than never." Except, this one was too late:

…but the future of UNC's transportation and parking is in need of your “sense of direction!”

Attend one of the remaining public forums, and put yourself in the “driver's seat!”

Visit the following website today for details on the specific times and locales of each forum:

Enjoy food, music, giveaways, and awards! Talk with representatives from Zipcar, Chapel Hill Transit, Piedmont Area Regional Transit, Alternative Fuel Experts, Triangle Transit Authority, and UNC's Commuter Alternatives Program!

For more information, contact the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety at (919) 962 - 3951, visit the Public Safety website at “”

Great! Problem is, by the time I got the message, it was too late. The three sessions were Tuesday at 2:00 (before the email was sent!), and yesterday at noon and 6:30pm. Was anyone able to go? Anything interesting come up?


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